Title: Costs and returns on avocados in Dade County, Florida, seasons 1938-1947, inclusive
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Title: Costs and returns on avocados in Dade County, Florida, seasons 1938-1947, inclusive
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Creator: Brooke, Donald Lloyd,
Publisher: University of Florida, Department of Agricultural Economics, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
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Agricultural Economics Series No. 49-1


COSTS AND RETURNS ON AVOCADOS IN DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA,

SEASONS 1938-1947, INCLUSIVE&/


by

Donald L. Brooke
Associate Agricultural Economist
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

Charles H. Steffani
County Agent
and
John D. Campbell
Assistant County Agent
Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Dade County, Florida





Introduction: Upon the request of a group of avocado and lime growers
in Dade County, Florida, and with the help of a Research Committee appointed
from among their number this study of costs and returns was made. The Re-
search Committee obtained records of planting, maintenance costs and returns
on avocados for the past 10 years. As of June 1, 1948 there were by tree
count approximately 6,517 acres of avocados, both bearing and nonbearing in
Dade County. Table 1 shows a breakdown of this acreage.

Records obtained cover 20.9 percent of the avocados planted in Dade
County during the years 1945, 1946, and 1947. Of the avocados 4 years old
and over in 1947, records were obtained on 8.4 percent of the acreage.

Data secured by the Research Committee were taken from grower, care-
taker, or cooperative association records. Sore of the data are for one year
of operation while others cover the full period 1938-47. It is expected that
costs and returns will be secured on a continuing basis from an increasing
number of growers for summarization each year. As the sample is increased
these summaries will more clearly reflect average operations and become more
valuable to growers and the industry.

1/ Preliminary

Acknowledgments: The writers wish to express their appreciation to members
of the Research Committee of the Tropical Fruit Growers Association for the
many. hours devoted to the gathering of records, committee meetings and valu-
able suggestions offered; to the growers who so willingly cooperated in giv-
ing their records; and to members of the Staff of the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Stations and Florida Agricultural Extension Service for advice and
suggestions. 1Tuch credit is due Dr. C. V. Noble, under whose direction this
study was made*









Table 1,--Acreage of Commercial Bearing and Nonbearing Avocados,
Dade County, Florida, June, 1948.

Age Acres

Nonbearing
0 1 year 2,285

1 2 years 726
2 3 years 539
Total 3,55

Bearing
4 years and over 2,967
Total all avocados 6,517


Source: Tree count survey by C. H. Steffani and
Unpublished.


J. D. Campbell.


Age Groups, Grove Valuation and Interest Rates; At the first meeting
of the Research Committee of avocado and Time growers, the age groups to be
used and the valuation to be placed upon planted, young and bearing avocados
was discussed. The Committee agreed that all data should be set up on the
basis of four age groups: planting groves, 1 to 3 years, 4 to 7 years, and
8 years of age and over. Hence, all records have been divided into these
groups and tabulated accordingly.

Normal grove valuation is a difficult figure to determine. In the mind
of the grove owner it may vary yearly according to the condition of the grove,
its age, location, or the price of fruit received and expected. After much
discussion, it was decided by the Research Committee that the per acre valu-
ation for avocado groves of various ages to be used in calculating interest
on investment would be as shown in Table 2.

Table 2.--Per Acre Valuation and Interest on Avocado Groves
by Age Groups, Dade County, Florida, 1947.


Valuation
per Acre


Interest I
per Acre.-


1 $ 400 $ 24.00
2 550 33.00
3 700 42.00
4 850 51.00
5 1000 60.00
6 1100 66.00
7 1200 72.00
8 and over 1250 75.00


I/ Computed at 6% per annum.


Years
of Age





-3-


Six percent was agreed upon by the Committee as a normal interest rate
to charge against grove valuation to growing expense. Interest is charged
for the full year against grove valuation and on average capital requirement
against growing expense, ie., 6 percent of yearly production expense for six
months.

Climate: Hurricanes, with their accompanying winds and water, and
freezes are the two chief causes of disaster in the production of avocados
in Dade County. Wind whippage, tree damage and bruised fruit increase the
cost of maintenance and decrease returns to growers very materially. Grow-
ing conditions of the tree and rootstock have some bearing on tree damage from
excessive water. Sunscald from water reflection where groves are under water
from one day to three weeks under clean cultivation is more prevalent. Cover
crops that will shade the ground during the hurricane season would seem de-
sirable. It is more desirable under any circumstances to secure high land
properly drained for planting avocado groves.

Table 3 shows the dates of freezes and hurricanes in Dade County over
the past 14 years. The avocado requires a relatively frost-free climate.
nature avocado trees of the West Indian race may be killed by temperatures
of 240 to 270 F. Young trees may be killed by a 30 F. temperature. Other
varieties may stand temperatures as low as 21 F. for a short period of time.2/


Table 3.--Dates of Freezes and Hurricanes in Homestead, Florida
1934-1947.

Date Temperature Remarks
(lowest recorded)


Freezes:
December
December
December
January
January
January
January
March

February
March
February
February


11,
12,
1,
28,
28,
29,
30,
4,

3,
4,
15,
6,


Hurricanes:
September
November
October
September


1934
1934
1935
1938
1940
1940
1940
1941

1942
1942
1943
1947


1935
1935
1941
1945


31.00
26.00
32.00
32,00
28.50
30.00
30.00
26.50

30,0
32.00
26,00
29.00


For six hours.
For several hours.

Brief


Below 32.00
hours.


F. for 3-1/2


Below 32.00 F. for 9 hours.


Devastated Florida Keys.
Passed north of Miami.
Miami Area
125 to 150 mile winds in
Homestead Area


Source: Homestead Sub-tropical Experiment Station records.

SFla. Ext. Bul. No. 129, Avocado Production in Florida. March, 1946.









Varieties: Of the many varieties of avocados that have been named and
propagated at some time during the past 45 years, only a few have continued
in favor and are now to be found in commercial plantings. Even after 35 years
of commercial avocado culture in Florida there is no one variety or set of
varieties that is wholly satisfactory. Each has some faults and each will be
replaced by some more new varieties eventually./

A study of 131 cooperating groves in 1948 covering 36 percent of the
planted acreage indicates that predominating varieties vary somewhat between
the young and old plantings. Table 4 shows that there are more Lulas, Booth
8's, Waldins and Collinsons than any of the other varieties in groves 4 years
old and over. In avocado groves 1 to 3 years old Lulas are the leading
variety, followed by Booth 8 and 7. Booth l's are fourth in importance and
Pollocks fifth.


Table 4.--Percentage by Varieties of Avocado Trees in Bearing
and Nonbearing Groves, Dade County, Florida, 1948.
Varieties Percent of Trees

Bearing Groves
Lula 23
Booth 8 13
Waldin 12
Collinson 9
Hickson 6
Booth 7 5
Taylor 4
Pollock 4
Trapp 4
Booth 1 3
Fuchs 2
Booth 3 2
Seedlings and 33 other varieties 13
Total 100
Nonbearing Groves
Lula 33
Booth 8 18
Booth 7 15
Booth 1 8
Pollock 4
Waldin 3
Hickson 3
Booth 3 2
Booth 5 2
Fuchs 1
Seedlings and 27 other varieties 11
Total 100

Source: Study of 131 cooperating groves by C. H. Steffani and
J. D. Campbell, December, 1948. Unpublished.

/ Fla. Ext. Bul. to. 129, Avocado Production in Florida, March, 1946.









Planting Groves: Avocados in Dade County are, for the most part,
planted on Rockdale rock soils. While these soils are composed mostly of
porous Miami oolite, there are two more or less distinct phases, the fine
sandy loam phase and the fine sandy phase. The dominant native vegetation
is slash pine and saw-palmetto. Good drainage is essential to successful
production of avocados. Natural drainage in this area is not sufficient
and, as a consequence, groves planted on the lower land may be damaged by
high water during the rainy season.

Development costs per acre for planting groves from 1945 to 1947 are
shown in Table 5. The cost of uncleared land ranged from $50 to $120 per
acre in this area and averaged $75.42 per acre for avocados for the three
seasons.

The land must be cleared of all trees and other vegetation and the
rock broken up by scarifying. This is done with bulldozers and heavy plow-
ing equipment. Planting rows are laid out and the center of each row is
scarified to a depth of 10 to 18 inches. The intervening space between rows
is scarified to a depth of four to eight inches. Some growers recommend
blasting in the tree row to a depth of 30 inches after scarifying. The rock
is broken up and mounded over the tree row. The land is then tracked or
levelled by bulldozers or levellers, Cost of clearing, scarifying and plant-
ing preparation is from $100 to $140 per acre. It is usually contracted. In
this study the average cost of land preparation for the 1945-47 period was
$110.25 per acre.

Costs to the grove owner for raising avocado trees to sufficient size
for resetting were not obtained in detail but estimated by grove owners at
$0.65 to $1.05 per tree. Nurserymen charge $1.00 to $1.25 for young avocado
trees. Costs per acre for trees shown in Table 5 assume solid block plant-
ings of avocados* However, many groves have been interplanted with limes.
Where this is the practice, the limes are generally planted in the check be-
tween the rows of avocado trees. Costs per acre for trees and labor with
this type of planting would, of course, be higher than either of the figures
shown in Table 5.

Planting widths for trees vary considerably between groves. Older
groves have been planted in 20 x 30 foot checks while some of the more re-
cent plantings are in 18 x 20, 20 x 20 and 25 x 20 foot checks. Some var-
ieties grow tall and slender and may be spaced closer than other varieties
with a wide spreading habit of growth, Spacing in any grove should be con-
sistant to allow for straight-line cultivation.

The planting season generally starts in April with the spring rains
and ends in September with the fall rains. Planting, fertilization and water-
ing are done "rith hand labor. Holes are scooped out at the check, the trees
inserted, and the hole refilled with rotted compost and soil. The soil is
packed around the trees and water added, if needed, to supply sufficient
moisture for starting the young tree. Successive applications of water are
made as needed, Labor costs for planting ranged from 64.51 in the 1945 sea-
son to $24.75 per acre in the 1947 season. Part of this difference may be










attributed to resetting after the hurricane of September 15, 1945. The cost
of fertilizer for establishing young trees averaged $12.79 per acre for the
three seasons studied. Mulching of trees with green or decomposed vegetable
matter where sufficient moisture is made available, is also beneficial. Where
shavings or sawdust are used care should be taken to insure moisture pene-
tration,

Since most grove owners and caretaking organizations keep their books
on a calendar year basis and most young groves are planted in the summer months
records were obtained on the calendar year. Interest on the cash cost of
planting young groves was charged at 6 percent for three months instead of
the full period of six months to compensate for the average need of capital
during the period. Interest charges averaged $10.46 per acre.

Total costs of developing young avocado groves during year of setting
ranged from $397.07 in 1945 to $302.36 in 1946 and averaged $359,01 for the
three seasons 1945-47,

Growing Costs; Data presented in Tables 6, 7, and 8 show by age groups
the cost of growing and net returns per acre and per bushel on avocados for
several seasons. The total costs as shown in these tables cover all expenses
up to harvesting.4!

On groves 1 to 3 years of age, Table 6, all costs of production in-
creased 21 percent from the 1946 to the 1947 season. Part of this increase
is due to the older age of trees in the groves in 1947. Average growing costs
were $117.88 per acre for the two seasons,

Costs per acre for labor on groves 4 to 7 years of age, Table 7, ranged
from $9.88 per acre in 1947 to $150.00 per acre in 1943 and averaged $57.02
per acre for the 10-year period 1938-47. The excessively high figure for
labor on the one grove in 1943 is the result of top-working the trees. If
other records had been obtained for groves in that year the average labor
cost would have been more nearly in line with other years. The low cost per
acre in 1947 may be attributed to the lack of need for pruning or working of
trees rather than to improper grove care. Heavy tree work in prior years,
as a result of hurricane damage, reduced tree work in 1947 on these two groves.

Applications of fertilizer on groves 4 to 7 years of age are made four
to six times during the year depending upon the particular season and require-
ments of the trees. Fertilizer costs per acre ranged from $19.83 in 1941 to
$73.61 in 1946 and averaged $42.26 per acre for the 1938-47 period. Some of
this increase is, of course, attributable to increased costs of commercial
fertilizers, addition of rare elements, and older trees requiring heavier
applications.

"Other Costs" as shown in these tables include such iters as cover
crop seed,.mowing, irrigation fuel, tree replacements, depreciation on wells
and equipment, taxes, grove supplies, office supplies, audit expense, and
machine hire, Though a breakdown of these items is highly desirable, it was

4/ Expenses and methods of harvesting and packing are the subjects of study
by another committee of the Tropical Fruit Growers Association and will
be reported separately.









not available on a sufficient number of records to comprise a fair sample.

Many of the groves are small and individual owners cannot economically
afford to own sufficient equipment for proper grove care. Much of the cul-
tural work and bookkeeping for absentee and resident owners is done by care-
taking organizations.

Total growing costs varied from $122.33 per acre in 1938 to $383.88
per acre in 1943. The average growing cost for the 10-year period was $216.93
per acre or $5.19 per bushel on groves 4 to 7 years of age. Growers do not
expect a grove under 8 years of age to return a profit, especially when hurri-
cane damage is as severe as it has been the past few years.

Total growing costs for bearing avocados, 8 years old and over, in-
creased 123 percent from the 1940 to the 1944 season, Table U. For the 9-year
period, 1939-47 the average cost was $268.75 per acre or $3.49 per bushel.
High labor costs in 1945 and 1946 were the result of hurricane damage on Sep-
tember 15, 1945, Low yields in 1946, also the result of hurricane damage,
were responsible for the high per bushel growing cost in that year.

Yields and Returns: Yields and returns were almost totally absent on
avocado groves 1 to 3 years of age. Only one small two year old grove of the
10 included in the 1947 average showed any returns from the sale of fruit.
An average of 11.7 bushels of avocados were harvested per acre and sold for
an average of $3.36 per bushel from this grove. In this case the net growing
cost was $89.97 per acre. It is not unlikely, with good growing conditions,
that a young grove, well care for, will produce a few bushels of marketable
fruit in its second and third year. There is some controversy among growers
concerning the advisability of allowing trees to bear fruit before their third
or fourth year of growth, believing the tree's development may be impaired
thereby.

Yields on groves 4 to 7 years old varied from four bushels per acre
in 1945 to 163 bushels per acre in 1939. Total on-tree returns on these same
groves varied from $18.25 per acre in 1945 to $346.31 per acre in 1946 and
averaged $117.66 per acre on those groves for which returns were available
during the 1938-47 period. Net returns per acre were greatest in 1939 and
1946 and least in 1945. On a per bushel basis, costs on 4 to 7 year old
groves were greatest and net returns on-tree least in 1945. The groves in
this age group showed a profit per acre and per bushel in only two years,
1939 and 1946.

Yields on avocado groves 8 years of age and over were highest in 1944
with 143 bushels per acre and least in 1946 with 21 bushels per acre. The
latter case again was a result of the hurricane of September 15, 1945.

Bearing groves showed a net profit per acre and per bushel from 1942
through 1945, Losses were sustained in the other five years under consider-
ation and the nine-year average shows a net loss of $0.18 per bushel for these
groves.

DLB:ms 1-11-49
Exp. Sta., Ag. Ec, 500




















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Preliminary -- Not for Publication


Average per Unit Costs and Returns for Vegetable Crops
in Selected Areas in Florida,
Season 1951-52.


Tomatoes
Item : : Immok-:nate e- Rusin: W au-
SDade *Imok n- :Sumter:chul
Pierce alee Staked stakedchula
S: :taked : :
rage yield per acre(bushels) : 158.5: 189.8: 184.8: 211.4: 193.7: 118.8: 232.0
: Per bushel
duction cost :$2.006:$1.943:$1.596:$2.987:$1.991:$2.6L1:$1.829

vesting costs: : : : : : :
picking :$0.545:$0.538:$0.575:$0.507:$0.349:$0.410:$0.634
acking : .51: : .581: .622: .617:
ontainer :.331: : .519: .513: .55:
auling : .056: .157: .105: .083: .053: .125: .139
their : : : :
commission : .18: .135: .160: .172: .164: .066: .O41

al harvesting cost :$1.621:$0.830:$1.940:$1.897:$1.638:$0.601:$0.81
al crop cost $3.627:$2.773:$3.536:$4.884:$3.629:$3.242:$2.643
p sales (F.O.B.) :$3.253:$3.769:$4.431:$4.503:$h.109:$2.529:$2.815
return :$-.374:$o.996:$0.895:$-.381:$O.480:$-.713:$0.172



W atermelons
Item Newberry
tImmokalee Leesburg Newberry-
: : : Trenton

Average yield per acre (melons) :399.1 : 30.0 251.0
: Per melon
Production cost : $0.564 $0.457 : $0.267

Harvesting costs:
Picking :$0.042 : $0.02 : $0.025
Packing : .018 : .012 : .013
Car materials : .015 .011 : .011
Hauling : .0 : .037 : .038
Other .010 .009 .009
Commission : .029 : .025 : .007
Total harvesting cost :$0.168 : $0.118 : $0.103
Total crop cost : $0.732 : $0.575 : $0.370
Crop sales (F.O.B.) : $0.877 : $0.73 : $0.536
Net return : $0.1 : $-.002 : $0.166

DLB:fw 2/9/53
Exp. Sta., Ag. Ec. 600




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